UCI Health burn experts urge caution when using e-cigarettes

Exploding batteries possibly due to improper charging

December 15, 2015

UCI Health Regional Burn Center specialists are reminding people to exercise caution when using and charging electronic smoking devices. The center has treated six people in recent weeks for facial and leg burns caused by exploding e-cigarettes, including vaporizers. The problem appears related to improperly charged batteries. Two other patients were also recently treated for burns caused by exploding cellular phone batteries.

“We want people to be aware that they can be seriously injured,” said burn center director Dr. Victor Joe. “Power chargers for these devices may generate heat, possibly becoming damaged or even causing them to explode if used improperly.”

Joe said people shouldn’t assume e-cigarettes are completely safe just because they are widely available and don’t actually have flames. The federal Food and Drug Administration does not regulate most electronic smoking devices before they hit the market and doesn’t guarantee they are safe. He advises following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Corona resident Cory Kadow, 24, recently underwent skin graft surgery to treat second and third degree burns to his leg, caused when the extra battery he was carrying ignited in his pocket.

“I was just getting in the car and the battery started spitting out blue flame from both ends,” he said. “It looked like one of those fireworks that spin around on the ground.”

Kadow said he has stopped smoking since he began vaping earlier this year.

A 2014 report by the U.S. Fire Administration examined reported cases of e-cigarette explosions and concluded that using power sources not approved by the manufacturer to recharge the lithium-ion batteries used in many e-cigarettes can explode when they overheat, such as when they receive too much voltage while charging. While manufacturer-supplied power adaptors may connect through USB ports, some consumers might use third party adaptors that vary in voltage and electric current. The report said batteries that receive too much current may explode.

The UCI Health Regional Burn Center is the only burn treatment program in Orange County verified by the American College of Surgeons and the American Burn Association, and certified by the California Children’s Services program.  Established in 1967, it was one of the nation’s first burn care facilities and annually treats hundreds of patients from across Southern California.

The burn center provides in-patient and outpatient treatment for a wide range of thermal, chemical and electrical burns and scalds, and serious skin conditions, such as Stevens Johnson Syndrome and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis. In addition to treatment, the burn center provides numerous support services for survivors and their families as well as educational community outreach.

In a burn emergency, please call 911.

To make an appointment with the UCI Health Regional Burn Center’s outpatient office, call 714-456-6170.

UCI Health comprises the clinical, medical education and research enterprises of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UCI Health at physician offices throughout Orange County and at its main campus, UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calif., a 411-bed acute care hospital that provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, behavioral health and rehabilitation. U.S. News & World Report has listed it among America’s Best Hospitals for 15 consecutive years. UC Irvine Medical Center features Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program, Level I trauma center and Level II pediatric trauma center, and is the primary teaching hospital for UC Irvine School of Medicine. UCI Health serves a region of more than 3 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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